Tire strategy was at the heart of the GP2 and GP3 races at the Hungaroring, where competitors experienced a wide variety of conditions on a relatively slow and twisty circuit.
The GP2 drivers had the soft and hard tires at their disposal, while the GP3 drivers used only the medium compound.
Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly was on pole for Prema Racing, converting his qualifying advantage to a win thanks to clever tire strategy as well. Like all of the top three, he started on the soft tires and then pitted for the hard tires shortly after the pit stop window opened on lap six.
The strategies were generally split down the middle, with around half the field choosing instead to start on the hard tire and then stay out for a longer first stint, in the hope of gaining track position over those starting on soft tires and moving to hard later in the race. For a while, it looked like this strategy might be extremely effective, with Russian Time’s Raffaele Marciello threatening Gasly and the other leaders – although the Italian eventually had to settle for fourth.
Arden’s Jimmy Eriksson used a similar hard-soft strategy to move from 20th on the grid to eighth overall (which would have given him reverse pole for Sunday’s race). However he retired with a mechanical issue on the final lap.
Consequently, Racing Engineering driver Jordan King claimed pole for Sunday’s sprint race but he was beaten to victory by a fast-starting Sergey Sirotkin (ART), who had been sixth on the grid. All the drivers used the hard compound tire for the sprint race, which was held in track temperatures close to 50 degrees centigrade.
The GP3 series has a new car this year that creates more downforce and puts more load through the tires, but despite this there was little degradation on the medium tires used at the freshly-resurfaced Hungaroring.
This enabled the GP3 drivers to push to the maximum, with Koiranen GP driver Matt Parry claiming his first win on Saturday. Victory in Sunday’s sprint race allowed Alexander Albon to take the championship lead from his other ART team mate Charles Leclerc, who also drove Pirelli’s Formula 1 tires when he completed FP1 for Haas on Friday.
Both Parry on Saturday and Albon on Sunday managed their tires perfectly to control the lead from the front, extracting the maximum performance when it was needed yet conserving the rubber to make sure they had enough in reserve when it counted.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola concluded: “We didn’t quite have the variety of weather seen in F1 qualifying, but the drivers still had to deal with changeable conditions on a very challenging circuit; similar in some ways to the kart tracks these young drivers grew up on. The drivers who started the GP2 feature race on the hard tire had reasonably little information to go on when it came to wear, and keeping the compound in the perfect working window was their key priority. We also saw some great soft tire strategies from Eriksson and Oliver Rowland in particular. In GP3, it was all about managing the medium compound during both races from start to finish, despite the high track temperatures.”
The next round of the GP2 and GP3 series will take place next weekend in Germany from 29-31 July.